AOL is to offer 5GB of online storage free to all users, with no charge for upload or download data, at a time when, analysts say, the company "badly needs to re-invent itself.
AOL is touting the service as storage offering that will "allow users to back up important files like photos, documents, music, videos, and more." Users will be able to access their files from any PC or mobile device with a Web connection, share them with others by granting file/folder permission, move them via easy drag-and-drop tools and auto-upload any e-mail attachments they receive via major providers (including AOL Mail, AIM Mail, or any non-AOL POP3 or IMAP-compatible mail providers).
The service will be available to any users with an AOL or AIM screenname starting in early September. A premium service with 50GB of storage will also be available.
Launch of the service comes as AOL announces plans to introduce an ambitious new video portal that aspires to become the leading web destination for online videos. According to Ovum the service, accessible in Beta test mode will let users watch videos on-demand from a great variety of content providers, search the web for clips on particular subjects and upload their own personal content to the site.
It also comes at a time of increasing pressure for AOL. Ovum says: "AOL badly needs to reinvent itself from a me-too Internet access provider to a glamorous open-access broadband content company, but the [video] service may be too ambitious to get traction across all the demographics that it aspires to serve.
"AOL had been losing a lot of customers to 'plain wrap' broadband ISPs over the past two years. With the value of its stock on a steady decline, the company is very much in need of re-engineering.
"Since its inception, AOL has derived the bulk of its revenues from subscriptions, but that has slowly been changing in favour of more contemporary business models like advertiser-supported. By launching a new video portal, AOL is also trying to capitalise on the resources and clout of its parent company, Warner Bros Western Union, operator of one of the world's largest money transfer services, has launched in Australia and New Zealand its loyalty programme offering free international phone calls to frequent transferers.
The service, "Instant Phone Time" is provided by US-based calling card operator, IDT Corporation which was selected in May 2006 as Western Union's preferred provider in the Asia Pacific region with the launch of the programme in Hong Kong. Holders of the Western Union Gold Card gain immediate free call credit whenever they transfer money to designated countries. Western Union says discussions are underway to extend the program to other countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Unwired has revamped its broadband wireless Internet access tariffs, cutting the prices of its top end plans, adding new mid range plans with more included data and reducing the throttled cap-exceeded downstream speed to 32kbps on all plans. The price of its top of the range access via desktop modem 1024/256 with 12GB has been reduced from $119.95 per month to $109.95 per month and the wireless card plan (750/256,12GB) reduced from $109.95 to $99.95. The price of the card modem has also been reduced from $299 to $249. As a result of the reduced price of this plan the former $89.95 6GB plan has been removed.
A new 256/64, 600MB card plan has been introduced at $34.95 per month and the download limit of the 512/128, $49.95 card plan increase to 600MB. A new 512/128 desktop modem plan with 600MB has been introduced at $49.95 and the 265/64 12GB plan at $64.95 removed.
Previously low speed plans were throttled 32/32kps once the download limit had been exceeded and higher speed plans to 64/32. In future all be throttled to 32/32.
CEO David Spence said: "Our changes ensure that Unwired continues to lead the market in terms of bang for buck." And Unwired presented a comparison with Telstra 1X EV-DO wireless broadband service. Prices for similar speeds were roughly comparable but included data volumes are much lower on Telstra which charges for excess data rather than throttling.
Vodafone Australia has launched a new suite of postpaid capped mobile plans on 24 month contract with a 3G phone at no additional charge.
They cost $49, $79, $99 or $149 per month and offer, respectively, services to the value of $280, $550, $700 and $1200 per month.
Services included in the cap include standard voice and video calls, domestic and international text and picture messaging, voicemail, director assistance, general queries, Vodafone Live, GPRS and national roaming (onto the Telstra network outside Vodafone 2G or 3G coverage areas).
Comparison between mobile plans is notoriously difficult. Optus' are fairly comparable in that charges for the individual services are similar and, like Vodafone, Opus does not complicate matters with 'free' on net calls in its capped plans.
Telstra does not offer capped mobile plans, but The Australian newspaper predicted on 25 July that Telstra would launch a fresh assault on the consumer market from August 1. It said that consumer chief, David Moffatt had signed off on a plan to launch a new range of mobile phone handset subsidies and offers on Internet services designed to, in particular, to entice users away from Optus.
The report said that Telstra was particularly focused on winning customers in the Sydney market where it runs third to Optus and Vodafone in consumer mobiles services.
The Optus caps do not span as great a range as the new Vodafone plans, and appear to offer poorer value. They are $49, $59, $79 and $89 per month offering calls to the value of $230, $280, $500 and $560 respectively.
Hutchison, which pioneered capped plans in Australia, offers up to 300 minutes of calls to other 3 mobiles over and above the include value of services in the cap.
Its caps are $29, $49, $69, $99 and $149 with services to the value of $120, $230, $400 , $600 and $1300 respectively. In addition the top plan offers 300 minutes of calls to other 3 phones and the bottom end plans 100 minutes. So would seem to offer better value for those who make large numbers of 'on-net' mobile calls.
Vodafone Australia has become the first mobile operator in Australia to offer BlackBerry push emailto a 3G device with the introduction of the BlackBerry 8707v.
It is a quad band device supporting 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM/ GPRS networks so will provide BlackBerry and other cellphone functions when roaming outside Australia.
When new dashboard software is released in September, the 707v it will also be possible to use the BlackBerry 8707v as a mobile broadband modem, allowing customers to keep laptops connected to Vodafone's 3G mobile broadband network. It will sell for $799, including GST.
Australia's 3G pioneer Hutchison is focussed on the consumer market and does not have any immediate plans to offer BlackBerry services.
Vodafone also introduced the new 2G BlackBerry 7130v which incorporates RIM's SureType keyboard technology.
This "merges a phone keypad with QWERTY keyboard to allow a narrower design and enable users to quickly and accurately type messages and dial phone numbers," according to RIM. It sells for $699.
Both handsets have QWERTY and a high-resolution LCD screen that supports more than, 65,000 colours. They incorporate intelligent light sensing technology that automatically adjusts the screen and keyboard lighting in response to ambient light levels.
Vodafone has also introduced the BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, software that offers the full functionality of the standard BlackBerry enterprise server v4.1 but which is available free for download and self install to purchasers of the new handsets.
This is already offered by Optus and Telstra. The catch is that the free version supports only one client. Upgrades can be purchased for up to 11 licences and beyond that to the full enterprise server. There is a webcast to assist users with installation but for the more technically challenged, Vodafone offers for $350 "the services of a dedicated installation engineer to talk customers through the set-up procedure over the phone."
The server integrates with or Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino and or Novell GroupWise.